U.S. Attorney Benjamin Mizer said Florida-based Hebrew Homes Health Network will pay $17 million to resolve a lawsuit that claimed the company paid doctors for Medicare referrals that required skilled nursing care. | U.S. Department of Justice

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A Florida-based skilled nursing facility will pay the federal government $17 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the company paid doctors in order to receive Medicare referrals for patients that required skilled nursing care.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Mizer said Hebrew Homes Health Network, its affiliates and subsidiaries and its former president and executive director, William Zubkoff, all agreed to the terms. It's the largest settlement involving a kickback scheme with a skilled nursing facility, Mizer said.

Hebrew Homes provided its services at seven rehab and skilled nursing facilities in Miami-Dade County in Florida.

“Illegal inducements paid to physicians in exchange for patient referrals will not be tolerated,” said Mizer, who works in the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Medicare funds should be used to provide care for our senior citizens, not as an inducement to physicians to refer business.”

The lawsuit claims the company operated the kickback scheme between 2006 and 2013, and alleged it hired “numerous” doctors as medical directors. The directors would sign contracts that specified their duties and hourly requirements.

However, the lawsuit said the contracts were for “ghost positions, and that most of the medical directors were required to perform few, if any, of their contracted job duties.”

The federal government claimed patient referrals “increased exponentially” once the medical directors were brought on board.

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